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Polo in the UAE

While the UAE has become a world player in business, hospitality, tourism, and art in the past few decades, there’s another platform it has surely and steadily been cultivating: the exciting sport of polo! We take a look at the part the Dubai-based Al Habtoor family is playing in polo’s phenomenal expansion in the region.

By Dina Spahi.

Polo in the UAE

Often referred to as the Game of Kings, the centuries-old elite sport of polo seems a natural fit for the UAE, which takes pride in its ability to balance the importance and respect of history and the drive for a better, brighter, and bigger future. Ever since President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan had the Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club built in 1994, polo has been popular among royals and other prominent Emirati families. Since then, the number of polo clubs and teams has multiplied, bringing with them a host of national and international tournaments, and attracting to the region both spectators and players with a passion for the adrenaline-fuelled sport.

The next level

The rise of polo in the UAE has recently been given a booster shot which has propelled it to another dimension. It owes its success to the Al Habtoor Group, which maintains a rich and diversified portfolio of projects, including the five-star Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, the Al Habtoor City project featuring hotels, a tennis academy, and residential blocks, as well as the group’s auto unit, Al Habtoor Motors, to name but a few. The prominent Al Habtoor family, in particular the brothers Mohammed and Rashid Al Habtoor, have been working for years to promote the sport throughout the region, raising the bar for Dubai polo by founding the Habtoor Polo Organization in 2000, launching the Dubai Gold Cup in 2009 and, more recently, the Polo Masters Cup. But it’s undisputedly the completion of the impressive and expansive Al Habtoor Polo Resort and Club which will take the sport to a whole new level.

A special landmark

Al Habtoor Polo Resort and Club was unveiled last year by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Founder and Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group and father to Mohammed and Rashid. It boasts 3 full-size polo fields, 1 stick and ball polo field and 2 full-size show jumping and dressage arenas. The club has 520 stables, 5 horse walkers and two exercise tracks. The Al Habtoor Polo Resort and Club is the new and permanent home of the Dubai Polo Gold Cup series as well as The Polo Academy, which offers riders of all ages and ability a wide range of riding disciplines including dressage, riding, and show jumping. Designed by British architects WS Atkins & Partners, the club also includes the five-star St Regis hotel with up to 136 keys in addition to 162 luxury bungalows. Mohammed Al Habtoor, Vice-Chairman and CEO, said “The new Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club will be a wonderful addition to the range of world-class facilities both visitors and residents already enjoy. It will also host the most important polo tournaments in the Middle East such as the Silver Cup, the Gold Cup, and the famous British Polo Day. These tournaments are part of the World Polo Tour, which was established in 2010 as a 10-goal tournament but is now played as an 18-goal tournament and attracts the attention of the best polo players around the world.

Photo Must Be Credited ©Edward Lloyd/Alpha Press 077334 23/06/2013 at The Al Habtoor Royal Windsor and Mountbatten Cups Polo held at Guards Polo Club in Windsor, Surrey

A family affair

Mohammed and Rashid Al Habtoor are often quoted as thanking their father for teaching them about family values, respect, tradition, and teamwork. Together, they founded the Al Habtoor Polo Challenge Cup, and now their sons also play the sport with great passion, making this Challenge Cup even more of a family affair. Their passion for Polo and equestrian sports is all-encompassing, and their vision includes hosting events and creating an atmosphere that everybody can enjoy. To this end, the Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club hosts the EEF Affiliated Dressage Competition as well as the popular Al Habtoor Horse and Hound Show, where two of man’s best friends come together for an unforgettable event.